Lexington, Tenn.-based FirstBank will debut a Chattanooga office in the downtown area later this year that bank officials are saying will feature a user-friendly lobby design.
The “pod-style” concept is designed to appeal to loan customers, small business owners and baby boomers and their parents who come into the bank, said Sam Jones, president of FirstBank in Chattanooga.
“Surprisingly, the baby boomers and up like this concept,” Mr. Jones said. “They still like relationship banking.”
The full-service bank branch will occupy about 4,200 square feet on the first floor of the 401 Building downtown.
By deciding to go with the new concept, the bank branch’s planned spring opening is delayed until May, Mr. Jones said.
The bank’s interior will be colored in earth tones with large plasma TVs in the lobby. Instead of having teller lines, the bank will have what officials are calling a “dialogue pod.”
“This is not your typical downtown bank office,” Mr. Jones said. “And that’s on purpose.”
Contributed rendering-- FirstBank’s new Chattanooga branch will have this new, more user-friendly floor plan that eliminates teller lines and instead uses “dialogue pods” to help customers, officials said.
When customers enter the bank, they will be greeted by a bank employee and taken to a pod, where they will stand beside the teller. The concept has been popular with banks and credit unions for the past several years, said Britin Boatright, president of metropolitan banks for FirstBank.
The pods give the bank’s lobby an open feel and removes the barriers between customers and tellers, he said.
“The concept is very customer friendly,” Mr. Jones said. “It has been the trend in consumer banking for the last three to five years.”
FirstBank has had a presence in the area for about 3 1/2 years with its mortgage operation on Shallowford Road. The bank also plans to open a second branch this spring in a former Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union building on Hamilton Place Boulevard, he said. That branch also will have the new pod-style lobby design.
FirstBank has nearly $1.9 billion in assets and $1.7 billion in total deposits, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The bank already has more than 30 offices in such cities as Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis and Jackson.
FirstBank also has a branch in Dayton, Tenn., and a loan production office in Cleveland, Tenn.
Mr. Jones said he hopes FirstBank’s location in the first floor of the 401 Building at the corner of Fourth and Chestnut streets will provide a highly visible location for the bank for both car and pedestrian traffic. The space in the also leaves room for the bank to grow, possibly adding a second dialogue pod and more offices.
With the new design, the bank also will address another banking trend that affected the industry years ago — branching.
“Fifteen years ago, (the trend was) closing branches,” Mr. Boatright said. “Now we see branches being built again.”
But this time, there might be seven branches instead of 25, he said. By not charging customers to use FirstBank ATMs or foreign ATMs, customers will be encouraged to use the automated centers for many of their transactions, and reducing the need for banks to build branches, he said.
FirstBank’s branch design includes a remote drive-through with tellers seen on video screens. The bank’s design plans call for the drive-through to be built in the next year.